Posts Tagged ‘failure’

5 Steps To Personal Empowerment

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

As a kid, personal empowerment was a foreign concept. I had no influence over any sphere of my life.

My summer job was to pull fifty-pound bales of hay on our meadow into piles so Dad could scoop them up with his loader tractor. Mom and my brother arranged bales on the haystack as dad dumped them. When I looked around, there was nothing but miles of bales lined up on the meadow for as far as I could see.

Life on a cattle ranch in Wyoming meant I worked alongside my parents to keep our cows fed and watered twelve months a year. I escaped my dreary world by day-dreaming of how I would call all the shots as an adult. All of a sudden, I found myself buried in a cloud of dust as my Grandmother put on the truck brakes and stopped beside me. She had noticed that my mind was elsewhere and I wasn’t paying much attention to my job.

My Grandmother spent the day in the hayfield as well. Her job was to set the irrigation after the hay bales had been picked up. She was a very practical person; she knew how to rebuild engines and her salad bowls all said Cool Whip on the side.

Grandmother was also the epitome of personal empowerment.  She focused on what she could control, which was her attitude, her work ethic, her willingness to hustle, and her commitment to the ranch. In doing so, she also empowered all those around her.

“Don’t monkey around,” she said to me. “You can complain all you want, but those bales of hay aren’t going to pull themselves into piles.” She left me choking in the dust when she spun the back tires getting back onto the road. I never argued with my Grandmother. Her favorite back scratcher was a toilet brush and she never hesitated using it to spank me either.

Her words reminded me that I needed to get the job done. Right now. Not later, after dreams had been explored, questions asked, and distractions dismantled into small pieces. I needed to take responsibility for the next step.

Personal empowerment is often represented as something we feel about ourselves at any given moment, as if it exists only within ourselves. That’s self-esteem. Personal empowerment, however, is something much bigger. It includes self-esteem and self-respect, but also includes our ability to have an impact on relationships and our social surroundings.

This is why my Grandmother had personal empowerment. She knew how to have conversations that led to real changes and improvements. Recent psychological research suggests that personal empowerment is an interactive process that takes action, gets feedback, makes adjustments, takes further action, and attains real results.

Unless leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs can have discussions that lead to real improvement, they’re not very empowered at all. To have personal empowerment, they need to find ways to increase influence within their social sphere, both in business and life.

Here are 5 step to personal empowerment:


Either you control your destiny, or it will control you. Life doesn’t stop for uncertainty or fear. It marches right on. Life won’t stop for your birthday even though you might wish it did. Age and wisdom don’t always travel together; sometimes age shows up all by itself. 

While there are many things that lead to personal empowerment, one of the most effective is to have this mindset: I am willing. I am willing to live the life I want. That means I am willing to stop doing the things that don’t produce life the life I want.

I was unwilling to pile the bales of hay; it wasn’t as if I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t want to. My Grandmother’s kick in the butt jolted me back to reality. When I moved back into action, I didn’t see myself as lazy and unmotivated.

TIP: Dreaming of the future is a waste of time and is always an impediment to personal empowerment. Not because we shouldn’t have dreams, but because we need to take responsibility for what is right in front of us. There will be opportunities to think of the future, but always pay attention to what is happening in life right now.


A goal is a something that you want and are willing to achieve. This is different from a value, because a value is something we find important. Good goals are related to our values. It’s up to us to set the course of action. For example, healthy living can be a value. Our goals related to healthy living can be a change in our diet or regular exercise.

Bad values are those determined by someone or something else. No amount of goal setting will guarantee you’ll hit your mark. For example, maybe one of your values is to get rich. That goal is not within your control because you are not in control of the stock market, the competition, etc.

Instead, identify a goal that will provide you with personal empowerment. This means your goal will increase your level of influence at many levels of social interaction. For example, if you run a business and face stiff competition, your goal is to win the battle. That is, you need to find ways to maintain satisfied and loyal customers.

TIP: If you run afoul of a relative or friend, your goal is to win that battle as well. Have the awkward conversation that will help you both understand what is going on. Remember, to create personal empowerment, your goal is to have a positive impact on relationships that are meaningful and significant.


My Grandmother knew I was monkeying around in the meadow instead of doing my job. Personal empowerment happens when we take responsibility for our own life. This is what generates self-esteem. Personal empowerment can be developed, and when it is, self-respect is the result. This requires that we get serious about the pursuit of our goals.

We take action and when we do, it enables us to prove our influence over others. I don’t mean exert our influence because that is akin to manipulation. Remember that personal empowerment is an interactive process where we take action, get feedback, make adjustments, take further action, and attain real results.

Failures are OK. Just remember to fail forward. Each failure should bring you closer to understanding how the setback happened and how you can overcome it next time. Failures often impede personal empowerment at first but they should be welcomed because they contain vital information that will help us fine tune our efforts.

TIP: Answer these questions:

  • How you can measure progress toward your goal?
  • Can you identify specific things you are already doing, or have already achieved, to help you reach your goal?
  • What are the next steps needed to achieve your goal? If the steps are large, you may want to break them into small sub-steps.
  • What do you need to develop, learn, or prepare to take these steps?
  • What can you do today to move forward?


Personal empowerment is the ability to make an impact on the lives of other people. Don’t confuse it with being bossy. To have personal empowerment, you must interact with others, not boss them around. Their feedback is essential, so don’t let your ego get in the way of making tweaks and changes to your action plan.

In other words, you’ve got to care about something other than yourself. My Grandmother cared about the ranch and her family.

It’s unrealistic to believe that you will achieve personal empowerment in a few short months. What is realistic is to believe that personal empowerment is a process that might take much longer so you will need the mental toughness to persevere. Once you find yourself able to influence one sphere of your life, expect something to happen that upsets the balance and you find yourself back at square one. Only this time, you’re smarter about how to to proceed; the learning curve is shorter.

TIP: The most accurate way to assess your impact is to ask for feedback from the people with whom you work or associate. They will tell you everything you need to know about how to refine your approach and improve future efforts.


Personal empowerment will lead to self-esteem and self-respect, not vice versa. This is what Joan Didion wrote about self-respect: “To live without self-respect is lie awake some night…counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises more subtle, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness.”

We can be so much better than that.

TIP: Personal empowerment pushes you to be the best person you can be. Ask yourself, “What if…?” It’s a phrase full of promise and anticipation. Or ask yourself, “What’s next…?” When you are empowered from within, you ignite the hunger that knows how to roll with the punches.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

Want Happiness? 3 Effective Ways To Take Charge Of Your Career

Monday, January 1st, 2018

As a new agent at the FBI Academy, happiness was not a priority. Our instructors took great delight when they uncovered our weaknesses. Once discovered, their dry little hearts made it their mission to push us as far into our discomfort zones as possible.

I had trouble with push-ups. My coach made sure he was the one to count them for our interim FIT test. He counted each push-up when we started out. When we hit the ninth push-up, he repeated, “Nine, nine, nine.” I did the ninth push-up nine times before he counted it!

All the while I’m thinking, “I don’t have any reserves left. I’ve wasted them all on the ninth push-up.” You guessed it: I finished the test and missed the critical points I needed to graduate from the Academy.

This was one of the most important failures of my life because the consequences were tremendous: I would not become an FBI Agent.

Time and time again, I go back to this failure to explain my success in life. The failure was traumatic. I hit rock bottom and was filled with desperation. It was at that moment, however, that I heard my calling. I wanted a career that would provide my life with value and meaning. For me, it was the FBI.

Every leader, entrepreneur, and business owner will have a different answer. But, to take charge of your career, you will need to dig down and uncover what provides your life with value and meaning. If you want happiness, it will need to be about more than money. If you make money your top priority, your soul will be sucked dry.

We all have a choice to make. We can whine about the raw deal life has handed us. Or, we can take charge of our life and focus on the things that truly matter. Because, guess what? Once we find the things that truly matter, we will find something much richer than happiness. We will find contentment and joy.

Here are 3 effective ways to take charge of your career (and yes, maybe find a little happiness as well):

1. Find A Path with Heart

If there is heart in your path, failure is nothing but another opportunity to try again. Mental toughness enables you to attack the same problem again and again, but each time you’re a little smarter about it. Your tactics may need to change, and you may be required to re-route, but the destination will be the same.

If there is no heart in your path, failure will seem overwhelming. Failure will be enough to persuade you to try something new, and you will drift until you finally succeed at something. Average people stop there—at success. And pretend, or hope, that their heart can be found there.

Failure can be a wonderful clarifying process. It can fortify your determination to succeed, or it can lead your mind to wander so it can consider another direction in life.

Once I realized my career as an FBI Agent was in jeopardy, my calling became crystal clear. I built up the strength to pass the push up test.

How To Make It Work For You:

To take charge of your career you will need to distinguish between passion and heart. Passion is an overused and overworked term. When someone starts talking about their passion, I break into a nervous sweat. It usually means their obsession of the moment. It’s easy to be passionate when things work out, and this is what makes passion so seductive. But when passion ebbs, it can evolve into frustration and annoyance.

Heart, on the other hand, is deeply embedded into the DNA of your being. It is who you are, stripped of all pretenses and baggage. If your failure is attached to a project that has heart, you will not be deterred by a few bumps on the road.

2. Align Goals with Your Heart

Many people focus on yearly goals, but that is a big mistake. Instead, identify what brings you a sense of joy. Then create goals to get you there. Let’s be honest: the real reason you want to be a millionaire is so you have the freedom to pursue the things that create excitement for you!

Get clear about what you want. What is the result you’re looking for? Do you want better relationships, financial independence, or is there something else?

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, did a study on goal-setting with 267 participants. She found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down.

  • Over 80% of Americans do not have goals
  • 16% say they do have goals but don’t write them down
  • Less than 4% actually write them down

Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We rely on goals to give us direction, but they only get in the way if they aren’t attached to something that creates joy and excitement for us. This is better known as the life-deferment plan—“someday I’ll get around to it.”

I passed the final physical fitness test and became an FBI Agent. Even in the midst of all the worry and anxiety there was a peace, because at the center of it all I had aligned my goals with where I truly wanted to go in life.

How To Make It Work For You:

To take charge of your career, here are some ways you can align goals with your heart:

  • Name the things that you look forward to in your day or week.
  • Recognize that your dream can also be a calling and that you may have more than one.
  • Stop being a slave to the life or job that is not fulfilling.
  • Minimize time spent on meaningless work.
  • Create time to pursue projects that do create excitement and life. Many of us have financial obligations that necessitate the need for those projects to remain a hobby. Don’t give up on them, though.
  • Write your most important goal on a blank sheet of paper and brainstorm ways to make it happen.

3. Examine The Labels You Give Yourself

The labels that others give you don’t matter as much as the ones you give yourself. Those that are self-imposed are boundaries that can limit where you move. Subconsciously, you may not let yourself cross them.

“Not an athlete“ was a label quickly given to me in the first few days of the Academy. I trained but made little progress. I gradually came to understand that not only had my classmates given me this label, but that I had accepted it, too. As long as I kept it, I wouldn’t be able to move beyond the self-imposed boundaries.

Happiness is not how I would describe how I felt about my situation at that moment. However, I knew that if I wanted to be fulfilled in the future, I would need to find a way to take charge of my career. Sooner, not later. Once I peeled back the label, I found an inner strength that translated to physical strength as well.

How To Make It Work For You:

To take charge of your career, here are some ways you can examine the labels you’ve given yourself, or accepted from others:

  • Recognize barriers that you’ve placed around yourself.
  • Pinpoint where those barriers came from. Most self-limiting beliefs are imposed on us by family, teachers, or associates from an early age.
  • Disregard limits that have been imposed by others.
  • Respect the boundaries imposed by your own personality. This means you need to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Most of the barriers that prevent us from living a full life are based in fear. There are many fears that show up in all personalities, such as fear of failure, success, intimacy, and change.

In our relentless pursuit of happiness, we’ve missed the value of pursuing the things that truly excite us in a deeper and more meaningful way. Take charge of your career, and life, and focus on what is important to you.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

7 Things Mentally Strong People Never Do

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Mentally tough people have surrounded me my entire life. My Dad picked away at a challenge until he found a way around it.

As an FBI agent, I found even more mentally strong people who worked their way through sticky and complex investigations. They took bold new directions that required grit and spunk. They set themselves apart from the crowd. Where others saw barriers, they saw challenges to overcome.

I learned there is no one secret to success. There is no single habit that will guarantee you’ll make it to the top. There are, however, behaviors that mentally strong people have in common to help them achieve their goals:

1. They Never Spread Negativity

It is tiresome to spend time around negative people. They spread no joy and relish dropping little bits of acid on everyone they meet; just enough to make sure their misery finds ample company. Some of the most negative people come disguised as family and friends.

If you surround yourself with negative people who don’t have dreams of their own, then guess what? You will be just like them.

TIP: You reflect the 5 people with whom you spend the most time. Distance yourself from losers who dwell on negativity.

2. They Don’t Give In To Indifference

Indifferent people find themselves satisfied with the status quo and eventually end up in a comfortable rut. They make excuses, blame others, and usually whine a lot to whoever will listen to them. To sum up: they are lazy, passive, and boring as hell.

When you care about something, you become unstoppable. Mentally strong people learn how to focus and prioritize their thoughts. They pick what is important to them, what they care about. This can be difficult, however, because it takes discipline

TIP: Pinpoint which values are important enough that you will become unstoppable in achieving them. When you care about something, you will do what you feel is right. That is what will make you unstoppable.

3. They Don’t Let Resentment Rear Its Ugly Head

Fear often hides itself in resentment. We fear the future, are angry about the present, and resent something that has happened to us in the past. Resentment rears its ugly head when we can’t let go of a slight or injustice, whether real or perceived. It’s nothing more than feeling sorry for yourself because things didn’t go your way.

Shit happens. It can hurt us and those feelings of anger are real and legitimate. But, if we let emotions simmer beneath the surface, they grow and eat away at us. Mentally strong people don’t waste precious energy on crap emotions like resentment. It sucks up too much of our stamina, the strength we need to achieve our goals.

TIP: The best way to eliminate resentment is not to set yourself up for it. Remember a time when someone asked you to do things for them. Subconsciously, you form expectations of what they’d do for you in return. If there’s a chance of you thinking, “what’s in it for me,” you’re headed for future resentment.

4. They Don’t Avoid Pain

The pursuit of happiness has gotten to be a problem. We are told happiness is something they can work for, achieve, or buy. Pain is nature’s way of inspiring change in our life. Let’s face it—if everything was perfect, would it motivate us to be innovative and survival-driven?

The constant building, conquering, and striving is the product of pain and dissatisfaction. Pain spurs action and mentally strong people understand that pain can show us where and how to take our next step.

TIP: Don’t coddle yourself or your children. Life is difficult. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional.

5. They Don’t Buy Into Victimhood

It’s become popular these days to be a victim. It’s possible to be offended about anything. We deserve to be outraged and we expect our pathetic little grievances to get attention.

There are legitimate victims out there, but they’re not the anemic gripes that pass themselves off as news these days. Mentally strong people understand infractions happen for many reasons, but to bitch about them to whoever will listen does nothing but take focus away from the real victims.

Rejection is a part of life, so grit-up, and grow up. Feeling offended gives us a sense of self-righteousness and moral superiority.

TIP: Tim Kreider said the following in a New York Times op-ed: “Outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but over time devour us from the inside out. And it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure.”

6. They Don’t Shy Away From Failure

We are programmed at an early age to avoid failure. Both parents and teachers pound into our heads that failing produces losers. Slick ads show us how winners look and live and they reinforce our desire to avoid failure.

Mentally strong people are the ones who continue to improve and innovate their craft. Performance improvement is built around the idea that failure is the best way to move forward. We fail, we evaluate and analyze why we failed, and try another iteration. This is the attitude that helps us weather the “shit storm” when we face a roadblock in business or life.

TIP: You’re only stupid if you don’t stop and learn from each failure. Don’t allow yourself to keep doing the same thing, each time hoping for a different result. You already know that one approach doesn’t work, so be smart and learn the lesson failure teaches you.

7. They Don’t Become Rigid In Their Thinking

When people set out to achieve their dream, they make goals to help them get there. Goals become the focus rather than the dream. That’s fine until they hit a roadblock or obstacle. Then, the goal is the thing to achieve rather than the dream. Our vision, or dream, often takes a back seat because we’ve become so focused on achieving our goals.

Every New Year begins with: what are your goals this year? The real question should be: what goals need to be modified this year to keep you moving toward your dream?

Mentally strong people understand their thinking must remain nimble and flexible. They evaluate the challenges that present themselves and pivot so they can adjust to them.

TIP: Instead of writing a list of goals, revisit your dream or vision. Then write the steps needed to get you there. Those steps are your goals.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

3 Beliefs Of People Who Refuse To Quit

Monday, July 31st, 2017

I have always admired people who refuse to quit, but when my cover was blown on my first undercover assignment, I had no choice but to throw in the towel.

I worked on building the backbone to find other ways to get back in the game. I was resilient and kept at it until another opportunity presented itself.

Resilience is not just about having backbone. It’s building up everything that supports our backbone, starting with the way we think about the negative events that happen in our life. Let’s face it, we need resilience when the shit hits the fan and things go bad. If everything was a bed or roses, we would never need to dig down to find greater strength and deeper meaning.

Mental toughness is developing a tough mindset that refuses to quit when life throws a curveball. People who refuse to quit are game-ready when opportunities show up as obstacles.

Martin Seligman is a psychologist who has spent decades studying how people deal with setbacks. In his book, Learned Optimism, he states that we all have a way of explaining the bad events that happen to us. This habit of thought starts in childhood and stems from our view of our place in the world.

The crux of mental toughness is being willing to take responsibility for our actions.  As Seligman states, people cannot learn how to be resilient unless they assume responsibility for the way they think about themselves. Maintaining positive beliefs about our abilities and our situation can enable us to become people who refuse to quit or give up on ourselves.

Here are 3 beliefs of people who refuse to quit:

1. Nothing Is Permanent

When I learned the undercover project would be shut down, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Failure hurts and it’s stupid to pretend it doesn’t. Failure makes everyone helpless, at least for that moment.

The difference between remaining helpless and bouncing back is by accepting that negative events are simply a part of the human condition. Aging, dying, and pain are inevitable. Joy, laughter, and happiness are also inevitable. And all will dissipate despite our best efforts to make them last forever.

Seligman states that people who refuse to quit do not feel that negative events will always happen to them. They also do not feel as though an opportunity will never come their way again.

The two key words to remember are always and never. Banish those words from your vocabulary and replace them with sometimes and lately. The negative event or situation becomes transient rather than permanent.

Affective forecasting is predicting how you will feel in the future. As it turns out, we’re terrible at it. We’re not good judges of what will make us happy. For example, in predicting how events like winning the lottery might affect their happiness, people are likely to overestimate how wonderful their life will become.

The same is true of interpreting how negative events will affect their life. People overestimate how their life will be ruined or negatively impacted by the event.

How To Make It Work For You: When you are down in the dumps and beating up on yourself, think about how much worse things could be for you. This forces you to identify the stuff in your life for which you are grateful.

2. Get Specific About Pervasiveness

It was tempting for me to throw up my hands and declare that I would never be an effective undercover agent. This would be a universal, or blanket explanation, that implied I lacked the ability to ever be good at it.

Instead, I got specific about why my cover had been blown. I was helpless, and a failure—in that particular situation. However, I also knew I could learn from that experience and move on.

People who refuse to quit are not drama queens who make every negative event a catastrophe. Yes, crap happens but people who refuse to quit narrow down the reasons why something was a failure. They are specific about what went wrong and why. Again, they are willing to accept responsibility for their actions and for the way they think about themselves.

“Catastrophizing” implies that you are a loser in all areas of your life, not just in the troubled area. This thinking is pervasive and can lead to people giving up on everything.

How To Make It Work For You: Hope is the cure for catastrophizing. Finding specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope. When you are confronted with a misfortune, check that your self-talk is not hopeless. Instead, inject a large dose of hope into your language.

3. Be Wary Of Personalization

I blamed myself for my failure as an undercover agent. I needed to take responsibility, and I did. As a result, my self-esteem plummeted. I began to see myself as worthless and not making a significant contribution to my squad.

I personalized the incident, and as a result, it affected the way I felt about myself.

They way we think about permanence and pervasiveness affects the things we do. The way we personalize a negative event controls how we feel about ourselves. People who never give up like themselves because they believe they are, and have been, the catalyst for good things. They do not believe good things come from other people or circumstances.

They accept that failure and misfortune will happen along the way, but they have hope that they will be resilient and bounce back because they’ve done it before.

Remember that personalization can be internal, where you blame yourself for what has happened. It can also be external, where you blame everyone else for your misfortune.

How To Make It Work For You: Optimism is not about ignoring life’s challenges. It’s the mental toughness to discipline our minds to create more powerful explanations about what is going on in our life.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

10 Hard Skills To Learn That Will Last A Lifetime

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

To survive growing up on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, there were hard skills to learn if I wanted to survive. I needed to be scrappy, gritty, and tenacious. If I wasn’t keeping an eye out for rattle snakes, I was avoiding horned bulls from charging my horse as I tried to cut them from a herd of cows.

I learned many important life lessons on that ranch, not the least is that it takes hard work, sweat, and mental toughness to get to the top and stay there. I took many of those lessons with me into the FBI as an undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years.

Here are 10 hard skills to learn that will last you a lifetime:

1. Hunt The Good Stuff

Positive thinkers are not optimists. Positive thinkers believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change; optimists believe their circumstances will eventually change for the better.

FBI Agents are not optimists who hope or expect an arrest to go without a hitch—instead, they prepare for the worst and practice ahead of time.

When they do come across adversity, they don’t wait and hope things will change for the better. They adapt quickly to the new situation and remain flexible by choosing to remain positive so that they will find a solution.

TIP: The greatest mental toughness tool we have is our ability to choose one thought over another.

2. Become Emotionally Competent

We all know lots of people who are intelligent, but they are not necessarily competent. If you can’t empathize with other people, you will never develop the emotional skills needed to get along with them.

As an FBI agent, I learned that empathy is not feeling sorry for others; it is relating to what others feel. Empathy helped create a team spirit within our squad and motivated agents to try harder.

As a leader or entrepreneur, you need to develop empathy to become a leader who can push people beyond their own apathy and to think about something bigger than themselves.

Emotional competency also requires you to develop the skills necessary to communicate accurately with people. This includes understanding the importance of both verbal and non-verbal cues.

TIP: You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t explain them to others, you will never be anything more than an educated loser.

3. Know What Makes You Tick

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. They know what is important to them; they have a vision and a set of goals to get them there.

In other words, it’s hitting your stride because you’ve found what makes you tick. The FBI only hires second career professionals because they want to know that the individual is making a deliberate and well thought-out move from their first successful career into their second with the FBI.

It doesn’t always take talent to meet goals. Instead, success needs flow. Flow is described as a state of deep absorption in the activity during which performance seems to happen effortlessly and automatically.

According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge so it acts as a catalyst for learning new skills and increasing challenges.

TIP: Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid.

4. Have The Confidence To Fail

Unfortunately, most of us fear failure so much that we shuffle along in life until we accidentally stumble onto something at which we are good. Success can be very misleading because often it is not what really fuels us. It is a success that is based in complacency because we are too scared of failure to pursue the type of work that would provide value and meaning.

It takes confidence to look failure in the face and keep moving forward because if we are confident in ourselves and our ability, we look at failure as part of the fine-tuning process.

Most of my FBI investigations met many failures as I continually looked for the soft underbelly of the puzzle in front of me. Each failure educated me more about how to keep moving forward to solve the investigation.

TIP: The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success.

5. Identify Self-Limiting Beliefs

A British psychologist proved that our memory is not always reliable.  Instead, we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

We already know that we are biased toward anything that confirms our own beliefs, but it’s important for you to realize that your brain has its own built-in confirmation bias. This means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values, and self-image.

For example, if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information which confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.

TIP: When you have doubts about your abilities and have self-limiting beliefs about what you can do in life, never rely on memory to give you accurace feedback, especially if the feedback is negative.

6. Stretch Toward Peak Performance

Unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.

At the FBI Academy, if coaches didn’t push every agent past their comfort zone every day they weren’t doing their job.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. Anything more will discourage you from trying harder; anything less will not push you hard enough to move forward. However, its important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

TIP: Smart leaders focus on developing peak performance by continually moving into their discomfort zone.

7. Manage Time Wisely

Find a system that works for you and stick to it. Not everyone is a morning person, so perhaps you’re most alert after you’ve exercised or taken a nap. The idea is to schedule the tasks that take the most energy for when your brain is fresh and alert.

Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well—they generate an image.

Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.

TIP: Grab a pen and paper and write down your prioritized projects for the day. This saves your brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save your energy for getting those tasks done!

8. Use Positive Self-Talk

The internal conversations we have with ourselves, called self-talk, can go on for days, and sometimes through our nights as well. Many of us know how vicious that inner critic can be. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. It’s not because we want to be, it’s because we don’t know how to manage our negative self-talk.

Energy follows attention—wherever your attention is focused, your energy will follow. If your inner critic is beating you up about a failure, your failing will be the one thing you focus on.

TIP: The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others

9. Make Room For Your Emotions

Mental toughness is managing our emotions in ways that will set us up for success. Instead of denying uncomfortable emotions, acknowledge them.

Researcher David Rock believes that labeling our negative emotions is an effective way of short circuiting their hold over us. So give your inner critic a name or call it out for what it really is—jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

You can keep the name in your head, but Rock believes that when you speak it, it activates a more robust short circuit to help break the emotional hold.

TIP: Destroy negative thoughts when they first show up and are at their weakest.

10. Find Your Tribe

Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, “Tribe”—“We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–tribes.”

The FBI Academy created a tribe when they refused to let new agents leave for the first several weeks. We grew to depend upon each other and it was habit that we took with us into the field as we looked out for fellow agents

When you are a member of a tribe, you have an acute sense of belonging—you feel accepted and safe when things go wrong. Many of us are lucky enough to feel that our biological families are our tribe, but usually tribes are founded around groups of people with shared values, ideas, and experiences.

In the competitive world of business, it is not always easy to feel safe and accepted. When things go wrong, you fear losing your company, your job, and maybe even your health.

TIP: In times of stress, it’s easy to feel neglected. It’s impossible to instantly create deep bonds of familiarity and trust. Don’t wait until things go wrong to start finding your tribe. Start now.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

5 Bullet Proof Confidence Strategies, From A Former FBI Agent

Monday, August 29th, 2016

As an FBI agent making an arrest, success wasn’t an option—it was an absolute necessity if I wanted to stay alive. I couldn’t wait for success to show up before I became confident in my abilities. The confidence was there first; the successful arrest came afterwards.

Confident woman

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go. The good news is that confidence is a set of learned skills and beliefs.

No one is immune to bouts of insecurity at work, but they don’t have to hold you back. For entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, it means having the grit you need to get through those times of doubt and the presence of mind to learn the lessons they can teach you about yourself and others.

Here are 5 bulletproof confidence strategies to get you where you want to be:


Risk - mouse in mug

Most of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re truly challenged. And most of do not want to be truly challenged because we don’t want to fail.

But failure can be very beneficial for building confidence because it allows you a perfect opportunity to 1) learn why things went wrong, and 2) see how you can make adjustments next time.

When learning how to make an arrest or interview a terrorist I needed to take risks, fail, and learn from my mistakes as much as possible before I found myself in the actual situation.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that taking risks, making mistakes, and failing will help you understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

What It Means For You

Stressing yourself is the only way to grow, both mentally and physically. This means you will fail, but this is OK as long as you are willing to learn from the mistakes you made.


Communication - 2 people

Research by Leadership IQ shows that people who are good at managing negative feedback tend to be more successful than those who are not. The study further indicates that of those who fail, 26% do so because they are unwilling to accept feedback as they are afraid it might be negative.

In another study, it was found that people who ask for feedback are the most effective leaders. According to Joseph Folkman, leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.

This study suggests that the worse you are as a leader, the less likely you are to be willing to ask for feedback because you’re afraid you will hear the truth!

After every major FBI operation, everyone involved gathers for a “hotwash” which is a critical analysis of the event. What went right, and why, is discussed as vigorously as what went wrong, and why. Everyone left the hotwash with a clear understanding of their performance in the operation.

What It Means For You

Pick people whose feedback will be honest and constructive. Feedback can be viewed as one more piece of data to analyze, digest, reject, or accept as information to make a better decision.


Persistence - runner tying shoe

The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it. Throw out preconceived ideas of what you can, and cannot do. If you put your shoulder to it, you will find that grit trumps talent every time!

Life-long training is a fact of life for FBI agents. It starts the day we arrive at the FBI Academy and ends the day we sign our retirement papers.

This constant training creates the sort of mentality that prepares for the worst and practices ahead of time to overcome it. We’ve either gathered the evidence, slapped on the handcuffs, or run the drills so we know what to do in case the sh*t hits the fan.

What It Means For You

Start by trying out your new skills in a safe setting. Practice a dry run before actually launching a product, negotiating with a tough customer, or making a presentation. Not only will it boost your confidence, but it can help you improve the quality of your performance.


Teamwork - ants

It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Having a solid network of people who understand you and your situation can help pave the way to confidence and success.

When your talent or skill set is reinforced by someone you respect, it resonates at a deeper level. If you believe you can do it, you work harder. When others believe in you, they push you harder.

The FBI encourages camaraderie amongst the agents because there is an intrinsic belief that together, we can all do better. And this keeps producing confidence in our own abilities.

What It Means For You

Find ways to link up with others in your area of expertise. There is something very powerful about seeing someone like yourself show you how to do the impossible.


Grit Up!

Grit is the passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Great athletes are not always young and fresh; instead, they are the ones who have prepared for the game and have the desire, grit, and will to succeed.

Researcher & psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that grit is the best predictor of success

Grit is unrelated to talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that the high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting success.

The most successful FBI agents were those with intrinsic goals like “I want to serve my country” or “I want to test my abilities” as opposed to those with extrinsic goals like “It’s a prestigious position” or “I will be in a powerful job.”

What It Means For You

If you are pursuing work that has meaning for you, it is easier to put your shoulder into it.

These tried-and-true strategies will help you build the confidence you will need to be ultimately successful in business and life.

What strategies have you used to gain more confidence?

This article was first published on Smartblog.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 


4 Essential Elements of Grit

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

New FBI agents are assigned either assigned cases so old that witnesses have died or cases with such quick turnaround leads that the new agent is left spinning.


It didn’t take me long to figure out what I needed to do to move as quickly as possible out of the rut of Team B and into the ranks of Team A—comprised of agents who not only worked hard, but had the grit to keep moving ahead when faced with failure or adversity.

But new agents were not the only ones stuck on Team B.

Older agents who did not have the grit to consistently do what they needed to do to succeed often found themselves run over by other agents who possessed resolve, willpower, and the perseverance to stick to their long-term goals.

Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, grit is an essential skill because it is the one thing you will need to succeed. If you give up when the going gets tough, you’re done.

Here are 4 essential elements of grit that you should know:

1. Feel The Fire In Your Belly

I knew I wanted to be the type of FBI Agent who could make a difference. In other words, I was passionate about my work.

Passion is the linchpin of grit. It is doing something and following a dream that gives you both value and meaning.

Passion gives people a single-mindedness that we do not see in others. It is a combination of ambition, willpower, and grit that keeps long-term goals in focus at all times.


  • When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.
  • If you surrender and give up, ask yourself if it’s because there is no fire in your belly and you are not really following your dream.

All dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible—T.E. Lawrence

2. Maintain Clarity of Goals

When I first started working counterintelligence and espionage, my goal was to be assigned a foreign intelligence officer.

Later, though, my goal had shifted. Now it wasn’t enough to be working cases—I felt drawn to tell others about how a huge organization like the FBI could be nimble and flexible enough to react to the demands of terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11.

My vision had not changed—I still wanted to be an FBI agent, but my goal had. I became the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California for four years. I’m glad I made the move because my long-term goals had shifted.


  • Revisit your goals annually to make certain that something hasn’t changed over the past year. Your mind is constantly adapting to new information coming your way.
  • Even a slight shift calls for a re-alignment in your priorities. Like myself, it may not require you to throw up your hands and quit, but it may suggest that you re-think where you fit in the larger picture.

3. Follow Up With Self-Discipline

There were many times when it was tempting to give up on an investigation when the leads got cold and there was no easy path forward.

Mental toughness was required to persevere and be agile enough in my thinking that I could approach a roadblock or obstacle from many different angles—always looking for the soft underbelly and refusing to give up.

Self-discipline is important because while grit is the ability to keep doing something, self-discipline often implies the ability to refrain from doing something.


  • Face your problems head on. It isn’t your problems that define you—it’s how you react and recover from them. Your problems are not going away unless you do something about them.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve, who you want to become, and the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your goals.
  • Define your goal as behavior. Identify the specific steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Define your goal in terms of behavior.
  • Organize your day. Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority.
  • Watch for excuses. Self-discipline means doing something you don’t necessary want to do.
  • Remember the reasons you want to reach your goal. When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.

4. Learn From Your Misses

Training in the FBI starts on your first day at the FBI Academy in Quantico and ends on your last day as an agent. If FBI instructors are not pushing you beyond your comfort zone, they aren’t doing their job.

Moving out of our comfort zone is hard because it usually means a trial and error approach as we find new footing. It’s important to take mistakes in stride and use the opportunity to learn from them. Only idiots don’t learn from their mistakes.

People with grit shrug off failure, focus on immediate recovery, and move on. The attitude determines the outcome, so it’s important to focus on lessons learned and how to keep moving forward.


  • Seek feedback about how you can make your best performance even better. Research indicates that leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.
  • Celebrate the small wins. Learn to appreciate the smaller steps that lead to success.
  • Learn from your challenges and become better because of them.

Grit is the mental toughness to continue to move ahead even when life hasn’t thrown you a perfect hand. It is the deliberate action of doing something again and again until you get it right. And then maybe doing it again after that, too.

Talent does not trump determination. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Grit, persistence, and determination will keep you moving ahead when your circumstances and environment has changed.

How have you developed grit?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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4 Ways To Overcome Failure

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

I was a new agent and had just been given my first surveillance assignment. I sat outside the subject’s house and waited. And waited. For something—anything—to happen. Hours later, I found myself asleep. Actually, it was a supervisor who found me and blew his horn. I jolted awake but I had been caught; I was embarrassed and needed to find a way to overcome failure.

The pain of my failure was so acute that I never wanted to experience it again.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, you will need to overcome failure and setbacks; and by now, you also probably know that you can learn a lot from them.

Unfortunately, the truly useful failures that change our thoughts and behavior (as opposed to merely stupid decisions) are somewhat rare. But it is possible to treat all failure and setbacks as strategic input on how to improve performance next time.

It didn’t take long for the supervisor who found me asleep on the surveillance assignment to spread the word to my colleagues. I swallowed my pride, kept a positive attitude, found ways to get interested in my assignment, and rewrote the ending by changing the focus from what I did wrong to what I was doing right.

Here are 4 ways you can overcome failure and setbacks: 


The higher up the chain of command, the harder it is to admit a mistake.

But, the best thing a leader can do is share a few personal stories with other team members of how they have overcome failure.  This is where a big dose of humility and a small ego will serve them well. Mentally tough leaders do not always have to be right.


When you communicate this to other team members, it does several things:

  1. Assures them you won’t point the finger of blame at someone if something goes wrong
  2. Encourages others to be more open, and honest, about their performance
  3. Creates an environment of innovation and experimentation
  4. Indicates that you truly understand the consequences of creative problem solving
  5. Gives others permission to bring potential problems to leadership’s attention earlier rather than later

Too often, leadership talks about a strategy of “trial and error” but their reaction to failure undermines their message.


People with strong mind make their emotions obey their logic.

Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. Your rational and thinking brain may understand the value of risk and failure, but your emotional, limbic brain system does not!

The only way to take control of your emotions is to focus on what you are actually learning from the experience.

As your brain learns, it adapts. What created fear, initially, is tempered by the thinking brain’s ability to see positive outcomes in the midst of a disappointment, failure, or setback. When you overcome failure, you become less afraid of it. And that is a good thing because it means you’re in control of your emotions.


If you focus on what you’ve learned, it suppresses the negative emotional reaction.

Remember—the key to success is avoiding the same mistake next time—so fail, but learn the lesson.


Rather than having all the answers, ask more questions.

The best questions always start with, “How, when, why, and what?” These are open-ended questions that invite conversation and discussion.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable so that our minds and hearts grow larger with each passing day. We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

Success seduces us into becoming set in our ways. “It’s working,” we say to ourselves, so we settle into comfort zones that begin to look more and more like ruts as we age.


Curiosity is important for peak performance because it:

  1. Makes your mind active instead of passive
  2. Encourages you to be more observant of new ideas
  3. Opens up new worlds and possibilities
  4. Creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction


Behavioral scientists have indicated that the way in which we predict our future behavior is determined by our past memories.

If team members end a project with a sense of failure and hopelessness, their only memory of the experience will be negative. They will not move on to another project with a sense of growth.

As the leader, entrepreneur, or business owner, you have the power to create an atmosphere of trust and appreciation—whether or not the project was a failure or a success.

In the book, The Other “F” Word, the authors suggest that the best workplaces are formed on a foundation of trust, and trust is not forged when things are going great. Instead, it is formed when things are not going great because this is when team members learn who has their back.


There is a difference between failing, and learning from your failure. Learning from failure is an active process that requires you to put as much thought into it as you do how you plan to achieve success.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency when confronted with a failure or setback because it takes more effort to extract the lesson to be learned than it does to shrug, give up, and move on.

The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success—LaRae Quy

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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The Positive Side Of Negative Thinking

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

I grew up in a family that survived by preparing for the worst: blizzards, drought, broken fences, and the threat of wildfire. There was a positive side to this negative thinking—as ranchers who made a living by raising cattle, we kept them fed, watered, and safe from Wyoming’s fierce winters and suffocatingly hot summers.

Negativity pablo

I remember Dad always anticipating the worst possible outcome as the severe seasons rolled by so he could prepare, and land on his feet when confronted with the unknown.

As an FBI agent, we planned arrests by giving priority to what could go wrong. We were not optimists who hoped everything would go according to plan.

Both my Dad and my fellow FBI agents were intelligent thinkers who were mentally tough. That is, they weighed the possibility of a negative outcome with equal heft as the possibility of a positive outcome.

Intelligent thinking is another term for positive thinking. Let me be clear—positivity is not optimism that always expects things to change for the better, nor is it pessimism that always assumes the worst will happen.

It is often as difficult for optimists to be positive thinkers as it is for pessimists. Positive thinking is not denying the contribution of negative thinking. In fact, it’s wise to prepare for the worst that could happen in business and life.

The term “positive thinking,” however, has been polluted by the relentless cheer of motivational speakers who pressure their audience by goading them to stamp out all traces of negativity.

While this approach seems to be popular with some audiences, it’s not a particularly sophisticated—or realistic—approach to life.

Mental toughness is not being afraid of negativity; instead, it is learning how to harness its power so it works for you.

Here are 5 ways negative thinking can make you a positive thinker:

1. Accept Your Negative Emotions

Observe all of your emotions and sensations as they come to the surface—not just the feel-good ones. Do not try to suppress a negative emotion simply because it’s negative. Be honest about what you are feeling.

TIP: Acknowledge all of your emotions and try not to judge them as being positive or negative. Then let them pass. The key is to not dwell on those emotions which are counterproductive or undesirable.

2. Embrace The Possibility of Failure

The all-positive approach of motivational speakers is relentless in its pursuit of perfection. The more realistic approach of positivity, on the other hand, does not reject failure. In fact, positive thinkers embrace failure as a challenge—a call to action to keep moving forward.

TIP: Do not give up and walk away, searching for something easier at which you will finally succeed. If achieving this goal is important to you, continue to approach the problem, but from different angles while at the same time honing your talents and skills.

3. Look For Positive Options

Negative thinking prepare you for the reality of a negative outcome in a situation, just as positive thinking is continually looking for and finding the positive options that every situation offers.

Thoughts are stubborn; once you let them take hold and grow roots, it is very difficult to erase them from your mind. Whatever grabs your attention rules your life. So, you need to control your thinking.

Researchers confirm that the very thing your mind focuses on is the same thing that you will start to notice in your daily life.

Your survival instinct has warned you of the possible negative outcome; now, you need to counter that warning with a positive response that will prepare you as you move toward the obstacle.

TIP: Recognize the negative aspects of your situation, but don’t dwell on them. Turn your attention to the positive options available to you.

4. Believe You Can Prevail

Positivity is believing we can prevail in our situation, regardless of the circumstances. Prisoners of war and Navy SEALS have found that their belief in their own ability to prevail in extreme and adverse conditions is what kept them alive.

Survival, in one form or another, is at the heart of mental toughness. It is prevailing over our circumstances and moving forward.

TIP: When things look tough, you will need to have the grit to be persistent and understand that failure is not the end—it simply represents another way to approach our situation.

5. Differentiate Between Visioning and Fantasy

Visioning is based on solid science. By visioning our performance repeatedly, our brain stores that information as a success. And with each success, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Use your dopamine not only to see rewards, but to move toward them.

Dreams can easily turn into fantasies if we let our thoughts get out of control, and fantasies can actually lessen our chance for success. Those who are adamant optimists about a positive future will experience a greater shock when things go wrong. If people fantasize only positive beliefs about their future, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout they way they had hoped.

TIP: For you to be a leader, you must see things as they really are. Then see them the way you can make them better.

Mental toughness is not just surviving through tough times, it is thriving, and not letting the environment control your thinking. Don’t pretend the negative aspects of your situation don’t exist, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, believe you will prevail by looking for, and finding, positive options.

What suggestions do you have for learning how to harness the power of negativity?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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What Successful People Know About Failure

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

When I was ten years old, I was riding my black quarter horse  and helping my grandmother cut a horned bull from the cattle  herd. The bull  suddenly turned, horns first, and charged my  horse. I grabbed the saddle  horn; my horse pivoted on his  back hooves and we got away unharmed.  My first attempt was a failure, but I still needed to  find a way to get the bull corralled….

Success - biker

There is one thing you never say to a grandmother who  has ammo on her  Christmas list: “I can’t.”

My grandmother was a mentally tough woman who never used the word quit or accepted defeat. No matter how difficult the situation, she kept trying.

Nothing grabs our attention like failure. For me, as a ten year old kid, failure meant I was not successful in getting the bull into the corral. Like most people, I defined failure as lack of success.

This attitude is not only antiquated, it is dangerous—because failure is an important learning tool for the brain.

Successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners all know that understanding how to deal with failure is part of the job. They know they don’t make bad decisions; they just have bad results.

Here are 5 things you need to know about failure and actions you can take:

1. Feed The Brain, It’s Starving

A child learns to walk by falling down; scientists experiment to identify what doesn’t work so it can be eliminated from future experiments. Learning is error-driven.

The limbic brain system has kept us safe for centuries because it pays more attention to negative information that could be perceived as a threat. It taught cavemen to GET lunch, and not BE lunch. This “negativity bias” is what drives learning since negative information gets the brain’s attention faster than positive information.

Failure forces us to integrate new information, and researchers have found the bigger the failure, the more we learn. The brain, you might say, feeds on failure.

2. Whip Back the Monster Called Ego

To the unconscious mind, being successful means being worthy. At the deepest level, success means we are worthy of being loved. And being loved is what matters to us most.

Failure reinforces a belief that we don’t have what it takes to make it in the world. While we don’t welcome them, failures remind us that we are not the center of the universe. If we really think about our experiences, we can see that there are factors beyond our control—indeed, factors that have nothing at all to do with us.

Failure humbles us, and this can be a good thing. Humility:

  • is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less.
  • reminds us that we’re no more important than anyone else.
  • cautions us to remember that no amount of success we’ve had in the past guarantees success in the future.
  • points out that it’s not about us.
  • makes us more authentic, which breeds trust.
  • produces better professionals, better leaders, and better human beings.

3. Keep Grasping for What is Out of Reach

Since we are imperfect creatures, there will always be a gap between what we are and what we can be. Our fear of failure can help us succeed because it sparks our desire to grasp what is just beyond our reach.

This is great motivation for leaders and businesses because failure can create the spark, the inspiration for great achievements.

Our struggle with our own failings can, ironically, bring out the best in us.

4. Explore the Unknown and Make New Discoveries

Psychologist B.F. Skinner once said that when you try something new and produce a result that was not what you expected (i.e. failure), drop everything and study it further because failure can be the portal for a new discovery.

Roy Plunkett, a chemist at DuPont, set out to invent a new refrigerant. Instead, he created a glob of white waxy material that conducted heat and did not stick to surfaces. Fascinated by this “unexpected” material, he abandoned his original line of research and experimented with this interesting material, which eventually became known by its household name—Teflon.

5. Shed Light on Blind Spots

Psychologists find that we tend to repeat the same mistake, and repeat it in endless variety. That is the definition of a blind spot.

Failures are incredibly valuable because they allow us to analyze our performance, and when we do, we identity those patterns of behavior that do not keep moving us forward. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment.

The leaders at Google know something very important about failure; they not only celebrate failure, they budget for it and it’s potential insight. Employees can spend 20 percent of each workday on their own projects even though 80 percent of Google ventures fail.

If people want big success, failure comes with the territory.

BTW, I knew my horse spooked the bull so, like my grandmother, I refused to accept defeat and tried something different: I got off and stood in front of him. The bull swung his head so hard, snot flung from side to side. He eventually turned around and wandered in the direction of the corral. I followed, leading my horse. I did get the bull corralled in the end.

How has failure made you a better leader, entrepreneur, or small business owner?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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